INCORPORATING AWA NEWSLETTER VOLUME 5 | ISSUE 2 | SUMMER 2020 | $6
COVID-19: FIGHT OR FLIGHT
CATTLE: STAY IN CONTROL
TIME TO REBUILD
It’s easy to sound glib
in these unprecedented
times but farmers and
families and local communities—have
on our minds 24/7.
As the scale of the
became clear, our first priority was the safety of
AGW staff and farming families in the program.
We halted all physical site audits and all staff
travel in March. It was the right decision because
the situation rapidly worsened.
When the nation shut down, countless farmers
who sold to restaurants, schools and other
institutions lost markets almost overnight. In
response, AGW took immediate action to help.
First, we sought to minimize the strain on farmers
and ranchers in the program—for example, by
suspending audit fee collection and extending
deadlines for compliance documents. With farms
unable to sell product, and many communities
seeing increasing dependence on food assistance,
we set up a nationwide campaign—'Help Farmers
Feed Hungry Families'—to connect farmers who
have excess supply with local food banks. In this
way, we can help get food to people who need it
the most while helping to keep farms in business.
When we learned that thousands of independent
farms were ineligible for federal support, we
joined over 20 other sustainable food companies
and advocacy groups (including Farm Aid and
the Sustainable Food Trade Association) to urge
Congress to ensure independent farmers could
access the $1.8 trillion emergency relief fund. We
approached key representatives to express our
anger that most federal funding has gone to large
commodity players instead. We will continue to
engage on behalf of independent farmers.
Our FMOC team has reached out to every certified
farm to assess their individual situations and
we’ve been sending out a weekly email to keep
everyone informed. We’ve regularly updated the
COVID-19 resources on our website with useful
information on direct marketing, grants and
funding, e-commerce, shipping and more, as well
as advice on emergency planning going forward.
While public safety is paramount, it’s in
everyone’s interests to maintain the integrity
of AGW programs and certified businesses. So
we have introduced new protocols for remote
auditing and will resume on-site audits as soon
as it’s safe to do so (see page 19). The situation
remains highly fluid: as I write, the infection rate
is rising again in many states.
But COVID has fundamentally exposed the
fragility of our centralized food system and many
consumers won’t forget the empty grocery store
shelves or the way independent farmers stepped
up to help. We will have an opportunity to rebuild.
When that times comes we must all be ready. In
the meantime, please let us know if we can help
navigate this ever-changing environment.
volume 5 • issue 2
cover price $6
Editor: Peter Mundy
The views expressed by
contributors to Sustainable
Farming are not necessarily those
of A Greener World. Every effort
is made to check the factual
accuracy of statements made in
the magazine, but no guarantees
are expressed or implied.
Material may not be reproduced
without prior written permission.
A Greener World
PO Box 115
Sign up to our email list
Read our blog at
The Certified Regenerative by A Greener World
(AGW) label is now available to farmers and
Launched this summer, the new program offers
whole-farm assurance of sustainability, measuring
benefits for soil, water, air, biodiversity, infrastructure,
animal welfare and social responsibility.
While other regenerative labels exist, Certified
Regenerative by AGW is the only regenerative
label that ensures audited, high-welfare animal
management and slaughter.
“We’re delighted to launch our Certified
Regenerative by AGW standards, which promote
ecological balance through continual improvement
of healthy, thriving ecosystems from the soil up,”
says Emily Moose, Director of Communications
and Outreach. “Truly regenerative farming means
better treatment for workers and animals, and
healthier farm ecosystems with cleaner air and
water—which grow healthier food.”
“Open to all farmers, regardless of organic certification,
Certified Regenerative by AGW is the
only regenerative agriculture program that functions
as a management tool, helping producers meet
their own regenerative goals through an audited,
regenerative plan and meeting farmers where they
are and partnering on a journey of regeneration.”
Before introducing the new standards, AGW
carried out a comprehensive analysis of best
practices and the latest science on the regenerative
approach. Certified Regenerative by AGW farms
are audited each year to detailed standards, criteria
and principles that ensure comprehensive
verification of regenerative practices. The new
standards are rigorous, practical and achievable,
offering a common understanding of regenerative
production that delivers sustainability and meets
Interested? Contact your regional FMOC for more
information (see page 24).
Bayer will pay up to $10.9 billion to settle
a number of lawsuits about the potential
carcinogenic effects of its glyphosate-based
The German agrichemical giant acquired its rival
Monsanto in 2018 for $63 billion and has been
facing over 125,000 claims in the U.S. after a
California court issued the first ruling linking the
herbicide to cancer. The company continues to
deny any safety concerns: “We stand strongly
behind our glyphosate-based herbicides.”
Scientists at Rothamsted Research UK have
definitively demonstrated that intensive farming
practices drain the soil of carbon, altering the
structure of soils’ microscopic habitat.
Writing in the Scientific Reports journal, they
say, “the shift from manure to ammonia and
phosphorous based fertilizers has caused microbes
to metabolize more carbon, excrete less polymers
and fundamentally alter the properties of farmland
soils when compared to their original grassland
A new consumer brochure is now available to
certified farmers and ranchers. Part of AGW’s
extensive promotional merchandise range,
the tri-folded consumer brochure describes
AGW’s third-party certifications using easyto-understand
information and eye-catching
images, and is designed to show customers
the wide-ranging benefits of AGW’s family
For farms and businesses selling AGW-certified
products. To order, see page 25.
BEE BRAIN IMPAIRMENT
Pesticides can impair brain growth in bumblebees,
warn scientists. Published in Proceedings of the
Royal Society B, researchers at Imperial College
London used micro-CT scanning technology
to show how parts of bumblebee brains grew
abnormally when exposed to neonicotinoid
pesticides during their larval phase, making them
poorer at performing tasks later in life. They argue
that direct exposure to pesticides through residues
on flowers should not be the only consideration
when determining potential pesticide harm.
2 • SUSTAINABLE FARMING • SUMMER 2020
SUMMER 2020 • SUSTAINABLE FARMING • 3
IN THE NEWS …
HELP FEED HUNGRY FAMILIES FUNDRAISER
A Greener World is leading a nationwide campaign
to help farmers deliver products to people severely
impacted by COVID-19.
Rising unemployment, school nutrition program
closures and massive strain on traditional
support networks led to skyrocketing demand
for food assistance. At the same time, farmers
who depended on sales to restaurants, schools
and other institutional customers lost markets
overnight. While $19 billion in COVID relief was
promised to support farmers, this is expected
to benefit large commodity producers.
AGW’s peer-to-peer fundraiser, Help Farmers
Feed Hungry Families, is connecting certified farms
with excess food to local food banks, homeless
shelters, meals on wheels, and other nonprofits
to feed those who need it most, enabling AGW
supporters to provide financial assistance to
help farms and their communities in need.
Hunter Farms in Jakin, GA saw beef sales drop
and the farm was left with excess supply. With
the support of AGW donors, they were able to
share their Certified Animal Welfare Approved
by AGW beef with Manna Drop’s monthly food
box pickup at Friendship United Methodist
Church, a program serving 300 families yearround.
Robert Braun of Pigeon River Farm, WI
is providing pasture-raised eggs to the Interfaith
Food Pantry in Portage County, which serves
around 230 families twice a month. For every
$10 given, the Brauns deliver three dozen eggs
to help families in need. “Our goal is to provide
180 dozen eggs twice a month,” says Braun.
“By connecting farmers with excess supply with
their local food banks, we can get food to those
who need it while helping farms stay in business,”
says AGW Executive Director Andrew Gunther.
Robert Braun, Pigeon River Farm Chad Hunter, Hunter Farms April Thatcher, April Joy Farm
THE WHITE STUFF
Water and milk
are the only drinks
to the Food Safety
Authority of Ireland
for 1 to 5 Year-Olds
in Ireland, defines
milk as a “key food,”
specifying a daily
intake of 18.5 ounces
of cow’s milk or
of yogurt or cheese.
The report also
warns that “some
as almond ‘milk’,
and rice ‘milk’ …
Read the full report
Zeal Grass Milk is the first Midwest brand to offer
Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW milk.
Part of the Free Range Dairies Group, Zeal
Grass Milk Creamery sources milk from partner
Missouri farms where cows are raised outdoors
under an intensive rotational grazing system. The
milk comes in two popular flavors—whole and
chocolate—and is available at select Chicagoland
stores including Sunset Foods, Sugar Beet Food
Co-op and Fresh Farms.
“Zeal Grass Milk’s products perfectly showcase
where we’re driving the food system: unmatched
integrity, excellent quality and real nutrition,”
says Sarah Hanlon, Director of Marketing
at Sunset Foods.
A WIN WIN
Members of two retirement communities in North
Carolina are benefitting from nutritious Certified
Animal Welfare Approved by AGW pork, sourced
from local farms.
Sam Suchoff, owner of The Pig, Lady Edison
and Deli Edison in Chapel Hill, is supplying the
Carolina Meadows and Galloway Ridge retirement
communities with fresh pasture-raised pork
sourced from farmers in the North Carolina
Natural Hog Growers Association (NCNHGA).
“Many restaurants and farming businesses have
been severely impacted by the COVID pandemic,”
says Callie Casteel, AGW’s Farmer and Market
Outreach Coordinator covering North Carolina.
“Sam’s sourcing relationship with the two retirement
communities not only supplies nutrientdense
pork to some of the most vulnerable, but
offers a new outlet to NCNHGA farmers at a time
when they need it most.”
left to right: Wallace,
Jones and Suchoff
AGW has introduced
to maintain integrity
of all programs and
“Our first priority
is keeping people
safe and minimizing
the spread of this
says Tim Holmes,
“We didn’t want
a farmer who just
lost their market to
worry about paying
their audit invoice.
So we introduced
measures to help,
including a hold
on collecting audit
fees up to June
1st and extending
See also page 23
Hundreds of delegates took part in a ‘Heal
the Land, Heal the People’ webinar in early June,
organized by the Integra Trust, to raise awareness
of the social, economic and environmental benefits
of sustainable food and farming practices in
AGW South Africa Executive
Director, Tozie Zokufa, was
one of 30 expert speakers,
which included numerous
sessions throughout the day.
Zokufa spoke on a virtual
panel, chaired by Dr Pieter
Prinsloo of Certified
Grassfed by AGW Langside Meats, to discuss the
importance of producing food with integrity and
sustainably and the role AGW South Africa can
play in bringing sustainable farmers and consumers
together through food labels they can trust.
“This was an exciting and
timely initiative, with the
opportunity to significantly
raise the profile of A Greener
World and our trusted
food certifications in South
Africa—and beyond,” says
Thinking about becoming Certified Non-GMO by
AGW? If so, now is your chance: for a limited time
we’re offering a 25% discount.
The market for non-GMO products is surging 17%
annually and is expected to reach over $1.1 billion
by 2023, according to industry analyst, Technavio.
A lack of clear labeling around GMOs means that
consumers must actively seek out Certified
Non-GMO products to avoid them.
Available to farmers, ranchers and food producers,
the Certified Non-GMO by AGW label guarantees
food products are produced without genetically
engineered/modified feed, supplements or
ingredients, and that meat, dairy and eggs come
from animals raised according to the highest
animal welfare standards in the industry.
With independent annual audits to ensure compliance,
Certified Non-GMO by AGW provides
farmers, ranchers and food producers with a
robust, trusted and highly competitive non-GMO
label claim. If you would like to discuss the benefits
—and how Certified Non-GMO by AGW stacks up
to other non-GMO labels out there—get in touch
4 • SUSTAINABLE FARMING • SUMMER 2020 SUMMER 2020 • SUSTAINABLE FARMING • 5
Like what you read?
Do you value our work to support market
transparency and pasture-based farming?
Your donation supports real change.
A Greener World is a nonprofit that is made possible by donations from people like you.
Because we are not dependent on certification fees, we can remain impartial in our auditing,
resulting in unrivaled integrity and trust. Your donations help us stay independent.
Will you partner with us to build a greener world by giving today?
Learn more at agreenerworld.org/donate
and reach over
farm, ranch and
LOOKING FOR A
Our labeling team can help you create a high-impact design
that complies with all relevant food labeling guidelines.
Available FREE OF CHARGE to farmers, ranchers and
food businesses in the AGW certification family.
For full details visit
or call 800-373-8806
for the UK’s
Wayne Copp is
AGW UK and Europe
Over the coming weeks and months, American
farmers and ranchers will probably hear a lot of
apparent anti-U.S. farming reaction from the UK.
On behalf of all British farmers, please don’t take
The ‘B’ word
In 2016, 51.89% of Britons voted to leave the
European Union in what is now known as the
Brexit referendum. Objectively, it is fair to say
that most British farmers were more than a
little ‘misled’ in the pre-election promises and
predictions from the Vote Leave campaign.
After leaving the clutches of the EU, we
were promised, British farming would once again
flourish. By ‘taking back control’ and cutting away
all the EU red tape we would be free to trade with
the EU and the rest of the world but without all
the regulations and paperwork. We could have
our (British) cake and eat it.
Yet three years on and the penny is finally
dropping: many farmers now realize they may
well have voted for their own demise.
The reality is that the future of thousands
of British farming families—and our hard-won
environmental and animal welfare standards—is
now effectively up for sale to the highest bidder.
And the going price? A successful free-trade deal
with the Trump administration.
Despite all the pre-election promises and
seductive words, it is clear the current government,
led by prime minister Boris Johnson, is callously
reneging on its Brexit campaign rhetoric. At the
time of writing it looks increasingly certain the
UK faces a disastrous ‘no deal’ Brexit where we
default to trade under WTO rules. Food imports
produced to lesser standards will give most UK
farmers limited options: either lowering their
production standards to compete or go out of
business. It’s a stark choice.
Make no mistake: the ‘perfect storm’ that is
unfolding before us could devastate UK farming
culture. Just take away farm subsidies, cut off easy
access to the biggest market on our doorstep and
flood the domestic market with cheap imports that
would be illegal to produce here in the UK. Despite
all the promises, British farming families, their
animals and the environment are simply ‘collateral
damage’ in the pursuit of a Trump trade deal.
It’s not you, it’s me
So, yes, we are angry. We fear for the future. But
despite what you are likely to hear, our problem is
not with U.S. farmers. Like many of you, we have
faced decades of mounting pressure to ‘get big
or get out.’ So far we have managed to remain
independent and resist the vertically integrated
industrial ‘contract’ farming model that is so
prevalent in the U.S. And thanks to extensive
animal welfare and environmental regulations
(and perhaps Britain’s long-held reputation as
a nation of animal lovers), the large-scale CAFOs
and feedlots you know so well are still a rarity
over here. But this is now all under threat.
I have always been proud of the steps that
farmers have taken in the UK to be world leaders
in pastoral, high-welfare farming. And I am
horrified at the prospect of this being ‘traded
away.’ We are calling on the government to
listen to the public and farmers and honor its
election and Brexit promises. If they fail to do
so, Boris Johnson will go down in history as the
prime minister who sold off UK farming and the
environment—and failed the British public.
6 • SUSTAINABLE FARMING • SUMMER 2020 SUMMER 2020 • SUSTAINABLE FARMING • 7
We must grasp this moment and
use it to reimagine agriculture,
says Andrew Gunther
As a farming organization certifying high-welfare,
pasture-based farming practices, we are used to
challenges. But this is unlike anything we have
As COVID-19 spread across the world like an
unwelcome smog it became increasingly obvious
that organizations and businesses paralyzed by
the overwhelming feeling of helplessness would
struggle to survive. As the weeks roll on, we realize
this may be the defining lesson for the future of
Early in the pandemic, A Greener World paused
auditing, transitioned to remote work and focused
solely on meeting our farmers’ needs and helping
them adapt to a radically different reality. While
this shift happened relatively quickly, I saw more
complex supply chains struggle to adapt. If there
is wisdom to be gleaned from reflecting as this
pandemic unfolds, we hope our observations
and conclusions can be of use.
From the vantage point of independent,
sustainable agriculture, this is what we’ve seen:
Panic-buying and shocked supply chains.
While conventional supply chains are very
efficient, they can also be unwieldy—when
they stop, they stop hard, putting a lot of
volume on hold.
Farms whose products are normally processed
further (e.g. milk) having to dispose of products
due to supply chain disruptions, low processing
capacity and predatory practices by processors.
This is hard for farmers, made even more
distressing in the face of widespread food
Rejection of science on a terrifying scale, even
among the most powerful decision makers.
We saw conversations quickly polarized,
preventing obvious and sensible solutions.
A range of personal reactions. Team members
with practical farming experience pivoted
extremely quickly from one role to another,
while those without farming experience
appeared to take a few days longer. This may
reflect the two groups’ different skillsets, as
well as the unshakeable ingenuity of farmers.
Immediate adaptation by farmers able to
market directly to consumers. Many of the
supply chains we’re working with are shorter
and more nimble, allowing them to respond
quickly to changing needs.
State and federal governmental responses
all over the map, with some states going
in and out of lockdown seemingly without
justification, others coordinating countryworthy
responses, and others proudly
burying their heads in the sand.
Lessons to learn
Many have observed that COVID-19 is a practice
round for how we as a planet will respond to the
increasing threats of climate change. If so, I fear
we will fail the test tragically unless we make
some urgent changes. While this pandemic is still
unfolding, I hope we may draw some lessons that
could strengthen future efforts to tackle global
Let go of assumptions. What worked before
will likely fail now, and traditional strengths
may be weaknesses—and vice versa.
Ensure the health and safety of the most
vulnerable: the elderly, the healthcare workers,
economically disadvantaged, the incarcerated,
those on the front lines of food and farming.
Whether for altruistic or selfish reasons,
caring for these groups keeps us all safer.
Listen to farmers and scientists—they
understand the short and long-term impacts
better than most. Lock the corporate lobbyists
in the closet.
Give everyone a way to engage (example:
A Greener World’s supporters pitched in to
fund food bank donations from farmers without
markets, getting nutritious, pasture-raised
meats, dairy and eggs to people most in need).
Get comfortable with a certain amount of
redundancy. Airplanes have two control
systems in case one goes down, yet we have
no backup in agriculture. Eliminating all of the
redundancies in our food system in the pursuit
of “efficiency” has made it fragile. Planning and
redundancy are keys to a functioning system—
whether it’s food or healthcare.
These lessons are learned through a lens of
agriculture, but I challenge you to find a global
challenge that isn’t. In five decades of farming
I’ve noticed that nothing makes us think about
farmers as much as empty grocery store shelves.
Our flagship certification and food label, Certified
Animal Welfare Approved by AGW, was launched
on the precipice of a national recession here in the
United States, and I would not be surprised to see
a resurgent interest in those who feed us.
A broken system
We work with farmers operating largely outside
of the current norm. The vast majority of farm
animals in the United States are raised in
industrial confinement systems that rely on
routine antibiotics, lax environmental and labor
regulations, uncompetitive markets and subsidies
maximizing supply to the benefit of processors
and detriment of producers. Animals are also
brought to market just in time, which means
that as processing capacity failed, production
continued, leaving massive oversupply. The
we will not
system is so finely tuned that a few weeks’
pause results in animals too big for processing
and handling equipment, as well as too late for
the projected demand. This is resulting in animals
being euthanized and dumped. This is not an
indictment of farmers in this system—farmers can
only produce for the markets available to them.
The way we farm in the United States is a direct
product of seeing food through the sole lens of
price and profit, and of not demanding better.
A challenging time
The UN’s FAO has called for agroecology as
solution for climate change. This is what our
farmers do—biodiverse stewardship that protects
the environment, supports public health and
nourishes rural economies—but these neighbors
and environmental stewards are at risk.
The most vulnerable part of sustainable
agriculture is the part that was just making it
into the mainstream—the restaurant suppliers,
the school meal suppliers, all those approaching
change at the scale we so desperately need. We
have just started to see schools serving pastureraised
meats, dairy and eggs from independent,
sustainable producers, foods renowned for
their nutritional benefits and valued for keeping
food dollars in the local community. I am very
concerned about these markets and their ability to
rebound, unless we fight for them now.
This is a challenging time for sustainable
agriculture. Not necessarily on every farm—many
are doing what they do every day: raising animals,
fruits and vegetables for appreciative communities
—but challenging for the trajectory of this movement.
And this challenge will require new and
honed skills as we navigate a post-pandemic
world. Tweaking at the fringes will not work—
now or in the future.
If we in sustainable agriculture continue to be
satisfied with having our impact quarantined to
farmers markets and private gardens, we will not
make the changes the next generation deserves.
I challenge everyone meeting this moment to use
it to reimagine the scale of the problems before us,
as well as the urgency of their solutions, and face
both head-on with clear purpose.
Reprinted by permission from Springer Nature
Customer Service Centre GmbH: Springer Nature,
Agriculture and Human Values, ‘COVID-19: fight
or flight’, Andrew Gunther, copyright 2020.
8 • SUSTAINABLE FARMING • SUMMER 2020
SUMMER 2020 • SUSTAINABLE FARMING • 9
No one can
plan for an
Following the global outbreak of COVID-19, we
know that many farmers (particularly those who
supply the hospitality sector) lost the majority
of their markets almost overnight. We also know
some farmers with established home delivery
services, online sales or farm shops have been
inundated by desperate customers. At the same
time, many of the services and supply chains that
farmers rely on—think animal feed or veterinary
services, slaughter facilities and outlets like
farmers’ markets—are at risk of disruption.
Regardless of your business model, many farmers
are now in ‘survival mode,’ forced to make rapid
decisions that will impact the future of their farms.
So how do you decide what to do when faced
with a total market collapse or unprecedented
demand that is sudden, unexpected, unavoidable
and unplanned for?
At A Greener World, we’re proud of our
reputation for being a practical, common-sense
program that’s grounded in the realities of everyday
farm and ranch life. Indeed, most of our auditors
and Compliance staff have many years of practical
experience in farming. And we know from personal
experience that when markets collapse suddenly—
or demand unexpectedly explodes—it is important
for farmers to take time out to look objectively
at their own unique situation in order to make
realistic and honest decisions for the future.
This takes a lot of discipline: it can be very hard
to remain objective when you have so much
of your identity and life invested in your farm
business. But it is an absolute necessity.
What is your market?
Farmers who are selling daily or weekly will have
very different options compared to those who are
selling monthly, quarterly or even once a year (for
example, those who raise turkey or geese for the
In the case of market collapse, is it possible
to delay marketing an animal? Producers who are
raising pigs and poultry have very limited options
once these animals are in a growth system due to
10 • SUSTAINABLE FARMING • SUMMER 2020 SUMMER 2020 • SUSTAINABLE FARMING • 11
the ongoing feeding costs—even if keeping animals
on a maintenance diet. For farmers with ruminants
it is often easier to find more land on which to
keep animals or to reduce associated feed costs.
But delays in selling or moving stock can quickly
result in farms running out of lower cost pasture
options and increasingly relying on more costly
conserved forage and feeding alternatives.
In either case, pastures and housing can quickly
fill up fast. Where freezer space is available, farmers
can go ahead and slaughter and store. But this
obviously presents additional risks if the market
does not recover quickly enough, for example,
or where your customers are seeking only fresh
On the other hand, when demand suddenly
explodes, a farm can be faced with excess demand
—and the risk of losing their market to those who
can meet it. In such situations, a farm can quickly
move all their current production and start selling
next year's product as well. However, we are aware
that obtaining slaughter slots to process the extra
sales can be a big problem. With many species,
such as cattle, it can take two years or more to
increase supply with the farms’ own breeding herd
production. Similarly, it generally takes 10 months
or more to bring farrow to finish pigs to point of
sale. The only option is to rapidly source either
feeder animals or point-of-slaughter animals to
meet excess demand.
What alternative markets are available?
Is home delivery an option? Or, more likely, can
you work with existing local, regional or national
distributors and marketers who are supplying
local, regional and national markets?
In many areas, local restaurants that have
been forced to close are attempting to operate
as takeout/delivery services or local food hubs.
Could they provide a new outlet for your products?
Or are there other more general markets available
that could help mitigate costs and lesson potential
losses? We have seen an explosion of online
suppliers of high-quality, specialized meats;
perhaps these outlets can offer new market
opportunities without the complications of
marketing and shipping yourselves.
If you are interested in setting up home delivery
or online sales there are plenty of options available.
Check our online resources for sources of online
sales advice and associated suppliers.
How secure are your markets?
Farmers’ markets and similar locations where
large numbers of people gather in one place are
now subject to significant restriction, and some
have even closed. Will your existing clients and
outlets still exist or be able to buy from you in the
future? It is an open question as to who will remain
Take a minute and
ask yourself a few
simple questions …
1. Where does
my animal feed
come from and
occur? Do I have
supplies to see me
the lead time for
2. What if I have to
keep my animals
on the farm for a
Where will I put
them? What would
I feed them? And
how much will that
cost? Can I afford
3. If my slaughter
plant closes down,
exist? How do I
my customers if
my product may
not be available?
4. If my distributor
or delivery service
is forced to close
how would I get
product to my
5. If all of the things
that could happen
DO happen, have
I got enough
resources to be
financially viable when everything settles and
what marketing opportunities will exist. Talk to
your customers. Seek to minimize your exposure
to risk, wherever possible.
Supplies and resources
Will the necessary supplies and resources to
maintain your business—such as feed, slaughter
capability, delivery and processing—continue to be
available in the short-, medium- and long-term?
Supply chains are rightly being prioritized for
human food; and we are already hearing animal
feeds are taking (quite rightly) second seat to
human feed. Veterinary services, feed suppliers,
slaughter/processing facilities and other important
services have also been reduced or shut down due
to virus-related labor shortages, for example.
We are aware that the sudden availability
of previously dedicated commodity animals for
finishing and slaughter has caused unexpected
complications, because the animals can be sourced
for a fraction of their normal value—and huge
short-term profits are possible. Some plants that
slaughtered for individual clients temporarily
switched to slaughtering excess commercial
production, either halting or significantly cutting
back on slaughter for their normal clients. We have
also seen consumers purchasing animals direct
from farms that did not previously have a direct
market program and having them slaughtered for
their freezers. Again, this has caused slaughter
slots to fill quickly.
Try to stay in regular contact with your
customers, suppliers and service providers. Talk to
your vet about potential shortages of key products
like medicines and disinfectants, and discuss
possible mitigating strategies/alternatives.
How long will the current situation last?
At present there is no answer to this question.
The situation is constantly changing. Try to listen
to trusted sources for information or guidance.
Set aside time to plan for the future
In some cases,
the lure of
animals as a ‘quick
fix’ to help meet
has proved too
irresistible. As the
old saying goes,
“there’s no such
thing as a free
lunch.” Some farms
have bought in
only to discover
they were harboring
like PRRS or
parasites such as
mange that were
an issue, and
may well end up
costing them their
What is my current financial situation?
What resources can you bring to bear to help
weather the current situation? How much access
to capital do you have, and what type?
How long will it take my farm to recover?
This will depend on your unique situation: your
markets, how long the crisis lasts, any government
action/support, personal resources available and
tolerance to debt and future income producing
What is my risk tolerance?
You are going to be making decisions based
on imperfect information. There may be some
facts, alongside educated guesses and some
wild speculation on how things will unfold. You
will be right on some of it and wrong on others,
as will all the “experts” out there. Some people
are more comfortable with higher uncertainty than
others. Similarly, the tolerance of different levels
of debt and risk will be different for everyone, too.
You will have to decide how much you are willing
to invest to keep the farm operating. How much of
your own savings are you willing to risk, or money
borrowed from others?
Time to make plans
You need to make both short-term and long-term
plans, based on the questions above. Situations
like this are very fluid and plans must be adjusted
based on the latest information.
We must remember that sometimes things
are simply beyond our control and that the best
solution may also be the hardest. In the extreme,
that might be to exit farming—or to shut down the
farms’ direct marketing operation and try again
once things have stabilized.
Timing and where you are in life will make a big
difference. If you have good markets and are wellfunded,
the coronavirus outbreak may represent
just a bump in the road. If you just started farming
and you won’t be marketing until next year, then
it all could be forgotten by then. But if you were
already struggling and you are resource-scarce it
may be time to look to other options.
Every farmer needs to evaluate their situation
based on their individual goals and the resources
available to them. By being prepared and
planning ahead, you can lessen the impact of
potential supply-chain interruption over the
coming months. It is always better to make a
decision based on the facts of your situation than
to have it made for you.
As always, please let us know if we can help you
to navigate this ever-changing environment.
Turn to page 24 to contact your regional
AGW Farmer and Market Outreach Coordinator.
We are actively compiling a list of online
resources for farmers and ranchers who are
working through challenges brought about
Grants and financial assistance/advice
Full-service online sales platforms
Social media marketing advice
Taking payment (online, in-person)
DIY online storefront and e-commerce
Shipping material suppliers
COVID-19 news on impacts for farmers
and food businesses
The list offers a wide selection of practical
guides, case studies, useful tools and more
from AGW and external organizations—
including USDA/Agriculture and Agri-Food
Canada and other government agencies,
state extensions, relief funds, representative
organizations and other nonprofits—and is
constantly being updated.
or contact your Farmer and Market Outreach
Coordinator (see page 24).
12 • SUSTAINABLE FARMING • SUMMER 2020 SUMMER 2020 • SUSTAINABLE FARMING • 13
Understanding the effect we have on our
cattle when we are working them is the
key to success, says Dylan Biggs
What defines success when we are working cattle?
Years ago success for me was just getting the job
done. Now, success is about specific outcomes I
want to achieve. At the end of the day, regardless
of techniques, do’s and don’ts or rights or wrongs,
they are all academic if the outcome isn’t achieved.
The outcome I strive for now is calm, relaxed
cattle. When I pressure cattle to ask them to move
or turn, slow down or speed up, I want them to
respond in a calm, voluntary manner. When a
cow walks calmly through the gate into the corral
or onto a stock trailer or out of the squeeze; or a
herd walks calmly into a new pasture and they put
their heads down grazing, that is my definition of
success. To do this, I had to learn to take my cues
from the cattle. I had to learn to listen to them so
I could be in the right place at the right time and
in the right manner.
Getting cattle to do what we want can be quite a
challenge. There are times when cattle truly are
not interested in going along with our plan. There
are also times when, in our efforts to get them to
do what we want, we end up being in their way
without even knowing it. On the surface this may
seem rather unlikely—and 30 years ago if anyone
had told me that I was the cause of many of the
problems I was having moving an animal or a herd,
I wouldn’t have believed them. It is always easier
to blame the cattle, the dog, our spouse, kids, our
help, the weather or various other circumstances
for the problems we are having working our cattle.
But if we are going to have consistent success
handling cattle, it is imperative that we become
acutely aware of counterproductive positioning,
pressure and/or timing. Otherwise we will be
doomed to struggle from our own errors.
Something people often feel compelled to do is
increase the pressure on cattle the closer they get
to the destination, whether it’s the gate, the corral,
the barn or the back of the stock trailer. The closer
we get the more you start feeling the anxiety of
“I sure hope we don’t lose them now”—and the
more pressure we instinctively want to apply.
Without even knowing it, we start to push the
cattle harder as added insurance. After all, no one
wants to get to the gate, corrals, barn door or stock
trailer only to have the cattle turn around and run
off. Just when the animal is at the threshold is
when we feel the strongest urge to rush the cow:
to slap, poke or prod her to “make sure” she goes.
It is almost an instinctive response and easily
becomes a habit.
Whether she goes or not, we have communicated
to her that the closer she gets to where we want
her, the more pressure she’ll experience—in other
words, the more unsafe her life becomes. Then
we assume that the cows don’t want to go there
because they are afraid of [“whatever”].
It is something I observe everywhere I go,
whether at places with thousands of head of cattle
or with 10. We unintentionally teach our cattle that
the places we want them to go are not safe because
of the stress we create for them.
I am not saying there aren’t circumstances
where more pressure isn’t required. But the
question is: are the cattle slowing down or on the
verge of stopping, signalling the need for more
pressure? If we are just pushing the cattle harder
in response to our own insecurity or impulse there
is a high probability of unintended consequences
that can result in the moment, and that stress can
accumulate over time.
Trust and respect
Some people believe all that is necessary to
handle cattle successfully is enough kindness,
compassion and patience. Yes, a compassionate
heart is essential as a foundation for patience
when working with animals. But if a cow's mind
is firmly fixed elsewhere we can whisper all the
sweet nothings we want: it will be to no avail! If a
bull's mind is on cycling cows, sweet nothings will
not walk him home. Nor will it prevent calves from
“It is always
14 • SUSTAINABLE FARMING • SUMMER 2020
SUMMER 2020 • SUSTAINABLE FARMING • 15
running back to find Mom or get cows to go pair
up with their calves if fresh spring grass is on the
menu after a long, cold winter on dry hay.
What will work in all these situations is an approach
to cattle handling that establishes enough
trust and respect that the cattle will voluntarily
yield to your position and pressure to go when
and where you choose. If cattle are going to yield
to your position in a calm responsive manner they
must trust you and they must respect you. If you
observe the hierarchical social structure of a herd
you will know that the boss cow does not establish
or maintain preferential access to the best of all
things in her world without firmly establishing and
maintaining respect from the rest of the herd.
Observation is the key
The reality is that the majority of cattle handling
problems actually stem from instinctive human
behaviors and it is imperative that we become
aware of these impulses and tendencies around
livestock so we can avoid the unintended consequences.
Over the years I have had plenty of
folks explain to me that their cows don’t want to
do this or that because of “X, Y or Z”; my response
is that while this may be true, it may also be that
the cows want to avoid the human commotion
that they associated with those specific locations.
Several times I have been told that “the cattle
won’t go into the corral.” But then I have worked
their cows and have walked them right into the
corral with no problem, where they stand there
calm and quiet.
Whether we are aware of it or not, every time
we are handling our cattle we are training them.
Training them to be more trusting, responsive and
controllable—or less trusting, less responsive and
less controllable. Becoming aware of the effect
we have on our cattle when we are working them
requires that we observe how they respond to us,
what are they telling us. If we are listening they
will tell us what we need to know to be in the best
position possible at the right time and with the
right kind of movement. Once we are aware of
—and in control of—our instinctive behaviors
we will be better equipped to handle cattle in
a manner that gets the job done efficiently and
safely, and with minimum stress.
Dylan Biggs offers regular practical seminars
on low-stress livestock handling, including:
introductory one-day seminars; intensive twoday
cattle handling clinics; advanced cattle
handling clinics; and custom cattle handling
clinics. Find out more at dylanbiggs.com or call
1-888-857-2624. Watch Dylan in practice in a
Canadian Centre for Health & Safety in Agriculture
Dylan Biggs works with a group of yearling heifers
Cattle that are nervous and flighty in corrals
are almost always behaving that way due to
the residual nervousness of the ‘pasture gather,
move and penning’ experience. The behavior
in the corral is an indication and reflection of
what went before the corral. If the milk is spilled
getting to the corral it can be tough to remedy
how the cattle behave in the corral itself. How
you work them can make it worse, but even if
one is very conscientious they are not going
to calm down right then and there.
Let’s assume the location is the gate into the
corrals. Ideally the cattle will be comfortable
coming to and going through the gate into the
corral. We don’t want them to associate the
gate with fear or anxiety, yet that is what we
risk if every time they get close to the gate
we get anxious and start pushing harder,
especially if we start making a commotion
with noise and arm waiving to get them to go
through the gate. We want them to want to be
there but because of impulse we can easily do
a good job of training them to actively avoid the
gate. Maintaining a calm confident demeanor in
all situations is ideal.
The next impulse that is often acted on in
combination with pushing harder is the impulse
to push directly into the rear of the herd from
behind. What this risks if this is sustained for
any time at all is flaring out the side of the herd
which will stop your movement and or worse
the lead will flare out and in no time the herd is
turning around and coming back on top of you.
All of this can happen in short order and happen
as a result of our actions, yet we invariably
blame it on the cattle.
Dylan and Colleen Biggs raise Certified Grassfed by AGW beef cattle and
sheep and Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW pigs at TK Ranch
in Alberta. Visit tkranch.com
KRISTEN KELDERMAN, FARM AND FOOD CARE ONTARIO
The following article
was supported in part
by the U.S. Department
of Agriculture, Agricultural
Research Service. Some
of this material is based
upon work that is supported
by the National
Institute of Food and
Agriculture, U.S. Department
Organic Research and
under award number
Mention of trade
names or commercial
products is solely for the
purpose of providing
and does not imply
endorsement by the
U.S. Department of
Agriculture. USDA is
an equal opportunity
provider and employer.
Scanning electron microscopic image of larval nematode (worm) trapped in sticky loops of D. flagrans
Any experienced livestock producer knows that
parasites are a natural part of livestock farming.
But new farmers may panic when they first realize
their animal has worms, feeling they may have
somehow neglected their animals. The goal should
be to manage or minimize the parasites, but not
eradicate them. It is important to stimulate the
animal’s immune response, but not overwhelm it.
Producers should feel comfortable having a few
worms on farm, but not so many as to harm
This article aims to explain the basic biology of
some common gastrointestinal nematode parasites
and outline a number of strategies to manage them,
as well as dispel some myths of the commonly
touted products that fail to control worms.
Life cycle and biology
of nematode parasites
Gastrointestinal nematode parasites have a direct
life cycle where parasite eggs are shed in the feces
and distributed over the pasture. The first stage
larvae develop inside the egg and hatch out within
48 hours, before developing to the second and
then third infective stage (also known as L3).
The third stage infective larvae migrate out of
the feces to soil and grass surfaces, where they
are ingested by grazing animals. The larvae travel
to the stomach or intestine where they penetrate
the gut wall. Mature larvae then emerge from the
gut wall and colonize the lumen of the stomach
or intestine where they mature and reproduce
to generate eggs. Adult worms can produce
thousands of eggs per day, and can lead to
significant health impacts or even death of
the infected animal.
Dewormer resistance—sometimes to all classes
of dewormer—is highly prevalent in the U.S. and
in many countries around the world.
Dewormer resistance occurs when parasitic
MICROGRAPHS COPYRIGHT DUDDINGTONIA.COM
16 • SUSTAINABLE FARMING • SUMMER 2020
SUMMER 2020 • SUSTAINABLE FARMING • 17
that Sericea lespedeza
can reduce the blood
sucking and egg laying
ability of barber pole
worms in a population survive drug treatment and
is a permanent genetic mutation. The more resistant
the worms, the less effective the dewormer will be.
If farms are fortunate enough to have worms that
are still susceptible to dewormers, these valuable
tools should be used only selectively—and not
on the entire flock—to keep a pool of worms unexposed
to the dewormer. Sustainable tools are
described below which can be used to complement
a deworming program and, in some cases, may
even replace the need for dewormers.
Copper oxide wire particles
Copper oxide wire particles or COWP (sold as
Copasure® or Ultracruz®) are small particles of
copper oxide delivered in a gelatin bolus (right)
to alleviate copper deficiency in small ruminants.
Research has shown that COWP are relatively
effective against barber pole worm, although
less effective against other intestinal parasites.
When COWP is combined with either
albendazole (such as Valbazen®) or levamisole
(such as Prohibit®), efficacy against barber pole
worm and intestinal worms greatly improves.
A study conducted in Arkansas, which tends to
have copper-deficient soils, showed that up to
four low dose treatments could be used on lambs
in one summer with liver copper levels remaining
safe. Nevertheless, caution should be taken when
administering any copper product to sheep (and
maybe goats) as they can easily succumb to
copper toxicity. COWP for parasite control should
only be used in small doses (0.5—1 g in sheep and
goats less than one year of age; 1—2 g in older
animals) and used as needed. It is important to
ensure that only copper oxide is used and not the
more readily absorbed copper sulphate, which
could lead to copper toxicity.
Nematode trapping fungi
Nematode-trapping fungi, also known as
predatory fungi, have potential as a biological
control agent The fungi trap and destroy developing
parasitic larvae in feces by creating trapping
structures, which prevent larvae from migrating
out of the fecal mass and onto forage, resulting in
fewer larvae available to infect grazing ruminants.
Duddingtonia flagrans is the fungal species
available in the U.S. and must be fed to livestock
to be effective. Spores survive passage through
Size 1 (0.5g)
Size 3 (0.5g)
the digestive tract of ruminants and, after the
animal defecates, germinate and grow in the feces
to form the sticky, sophisticated loops that trap
the developing parasitic larvae.
Daily feeding requires an intensive management
system to ensure each animal can consume
an adequate amount of the feed/spore mixture.
To achieve adequate control of larvae in the feces,
the spores must be fed for a period of 60 to 120
days, usually starting at the beginning of the
grazing season (especially weanlings) and to dams
during the peri-parturient period. Feeding studies
with several livestock species (including small
ruminants) have shown high reduction of larvae
in feces and on pasture.
Two formulations of D. flagrans are available:
BioWorma® and Livamol® with BioWorma®. For
one 100 lb animal it costs about $0.60/day to
feed Livamol® or $0.21/day to feed BioWorma®
(requires dilution in a premix). New products are
under development. For more information visit
Due to years of selection while grazing grass,
sheep are generally more resistant to parasites
than goats, whereas goats evolved to browse
trees and shrubs away from infective parasites.
Sheep that were developed in warm, humid
climates adapted to heavier parasite infection
through an immune response to resist infection
or become resilient. Resistant breeds include
the St Croix, Barbados Blackbelly, Florida Cracker,
Florida Native and Gulf Coast Native. The Katahdin
is a composite breed that can be resistant, resilient
or susceptible, depending on breeding objectives of
their originating flock. While no specific goat breed
is known to be resistant to parasites, Spanish and
Kiko are often more resistant or resilient than Boer.
In general, dairy goats are considered susceptible
to parasites, due to selection for productive traits
rather than survival.
Feeding, pastures and forages
Providing a wide variety of high quality forages
and forage types should minimize pasture
infection of nematode parasites. Short grasses
allow the greatest infection potential, whereas
more complex physical structures on the plant
—or an elevated height of browse, trees and
shrubs—are least infective.
Some plants have secondary compounds that
naturally protect the plant from drought, excess
water, pests and grazing; these compounds can
also have bioactivity against some nematode
parasites when consumed. Research shows
that Sericea lespedeza, a legume forage rich in
condensed tannins, can reduce the blood sucking
and egg laying ability of barber pole worm,
although not necessarily kill the worms. Grazing
Sericea lespedeza-rich forage or providing dried
hay or pellets can be one tool to reduce the
infection intensity. Birdsfoot trefoil and sainfoin
are other condensed tannin rich plants to aid in
control of internal parasites.
It goes without saying that overgrazing should
be avoided, as this can quickly lead to parasite
problems, both from overdispersion of parasites
and reduced nutrition to the animal.
Some farmers swear by the use of diatomaceous
earth (DE) for parasite control. When DE is ingested
by livestock, the microscopic shards are thought
to use mechanical movements within the gut to
cause injury to the outer cuticle of nematodes
and ultimately lead to dehydration and death of
the adult parasites. However, research literature
is almost void of studies on DE against livestock
parasites, and our own trials found little evidence
of any reduction in fecal egg counts after feeding
2% of diet as DE for seven days.
Similarly, there is little scientific evidence of
any effect of common herbal products, garlic,
papaya, pumpkin seeds or ginger on the reduction
of fecal egg counts or worms—or an improvement
in anemia in small ruminants. It may be that
continuous use of some products is necessary,
or precise formulations or genetic material.
Nevertheless, we believe that it is best to rely on
more tried and true methods for parasite control.
None of the above strategies should be relied
upon alone, but rather applied in an integrated
fashion. Good pasture management (including
rotational grazing and quality forages) combined
with resistant livestock breeds should yield
sustainable worm control. The goal, as always, is to
minimize uptake of infective larvae from pastures,
minimize infection and selectively treat for worms,
Grazers pick up infective larvae from pastures, become infected and
depost feces with eggs to continue the infection cycle.
Minimizing larval uptake
• Gazing management through
• Low stocking rates.
• Providing high-quality, mixed
forages such as chicory or clover
which are less likely to transmit
• Feeding nematode-trapping
fungus to kill larvae in feces.
within the animal
• Selecting resistant genetics or
• Improved nutrition through quality
forages and supplements to
maintain good body condition,
especially at key life stages.
• Feeding plants with condensed
tannins, such as Sericea
lespedeza or Birdsfoot trefoil.
• Intervention of worm infection
with COWP and/or effective
Dr. Joan M. Burke is a Research Animal Scientist with the USDA, Agricultural
Research Service, Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center in Booneville,
Arkansas. The 2,200-acre research center manages Certified Animal
Welfare Approved by AGW sheep breeding and feeder stock. For more
information visit ars.usda.gov/southeast-area/booneville-ar/
18 • SUSTAINABLE FARMING • SUMMER 2020 SUMMER 2020 • SUSTAINABLE FARMING • 19
Jen Gravely Burton
explores the body’s
complex systems that
protect animal health
“The immune system.” When captured in these
three words it sounds simple, almost straightforward—a
single entity or, at the very least,
a tightly coordinated set. Is it that simple?
Not at all. Coordinated? Well, yes and no.
To begin to sort it out, let’s meet a few of the
A wide variety of white blood cells emerge from
stem cells in the bone marrow. Natural killer
(NK) cells need help identifying diseased cells
in the body. But once those cells are marked as
containing virus or cancer DNA, NK cells punch
holes in their outer membranes, killing diseased
cells before they can do more harm.
Such a deadly force requires some regulation
and thymic—or “T” cells—are up to the task. In a
developing animal’s thymus, T cells are tested to
make sure they can differentiate between normal
cells and a foreign invader. T cells that would cause
harm to the animal’s normal tissues, and those
that fail to strongly oppose foreign proteins, are
killed before they leave the thymus. Some of the
survivors will become T ‘helper’ cells, stimulating
or suppressing other immune cells (including
NK cells) to modulate immune activity. Others
will become cytotoxic T cells, themselves armed
to destroy virus-infected or tumor-ridden cells.
NK and T cells are the main type of cell found in
lymphatic system and are known as lymphocytes.
Inflammatory or granular cells are also armed
with chemical weapons but are more mobile than
most lymphocytes. While the NK and T lymphocytes
tend to work on-site, granular cells circulate
in the bloodstream until body tissues send a signal
for help. When called, these inflammatory cells
move through vessel walls into tissue, where they
discharge their chemical contents. The ensuing
reactions release free radicals, causing oxidative
damage to disinfect wounds and kill invaders.
The fluid and debris they leave behind is called
Other myelocytes take an even more systemic
approach. Monocytes, macrophages and dendritic
cells assume dual roles. At large in the tissues,
these immune cells engulf and digest foreign or
damaged material—from slivers, to microbes, to
cancer cells. They attack and neutralize invaders,
clean-up damage and transport materials for
recycling or disposal. In addition to this “phagocyte”
role, many are antigen-presenting cells (APCs).
APCs transport materials to organized immune
tissues like lymph nodes. In these immune control
centers, APCs present foreign material to other
cells so that a targeted, specific immune response
When a calf is
in utero before the
the thymus cannot
virus from the calf’s
normal cells. T cells
that strongly oppose
the BVD virus
are killed. Without
those T cells, the
animal will remain
for life, shedding
is present, antioxidants
so that it can be
from the site. Both
of these effects
reduce swelling and
What about antibodies? Antibodies are not
immune cells, but rather proteins produced by
“B” immune cells. When faced with a foreign
material or “antigen”, B lymphocytes (with help
from APC and helper cells) produce antibodies
(also known as immunoglobulins) that can bind
those materials. This binding interrupts pathogen
activity, makes invaders an easier target for other
immune cells, and helps other systems transport
these materials out of body.
The very specific antibodies that characterize
our most effective immune response take 2–3
weeks to manufacture, then wane as infection
subsides. After their job is done, some antibodyproducing
B cells transform into long-lived
memory cells. If they ever see their target
pathogen again, they will ensure a much faster
immune response next time—so fast that in
many cases you’ll never know the animal was
infected. Memory cells are the reason individuals
who recently recovered from a disease won’t
be re-infected by their herd-mates. Lasting a
few months to 50 years or more, this “immune
memory” is also the end product of vaccines.
Newborns and colostrum
Newborns arrive with fully functional NK, T and
inflammatory cells. But they lack the more coordinated
APCs and B cells, so they cannot make
antibodies. In most species, the highly specific
antibodies that emerge 2-3 weeks after infection
or vaccination are the only type that can be
transferred in colostrum, so it is important to
time late-pregnancy vaccinations correctly—
usually about a month before delivery.
Veterinarians recommend that you avoid
moving the dam in the last month of pregnancy
for the same reason. Colostrum will protect offspring
against the pathogens mom was exposed
to a month before delivery, but will not protect
against pathogens she first encountered just
a couple weeks before delivery.
Maternal antibodies protect the young
animal until it is able to mount its own B cell
response. Once the animal is able to produce
immunoglobulins vaccines can be effective.
However, vaccines cannot work in the presence
of antibodies. Some vaccines are given multiple
times to young animals to ensure protection as
soon as possible after maternal antibodies wane.
Jen Gravely Burton dvm is a veterinarian and
educator with a special interest in the intersection
of food animal medicine and public health.
20 • SUSTAINABLE FARMING • SUMMER 2020
SUMMER 2020 • SUSTAINABLE FARMING • 21
CHICKEN ON GRASS
The nutritional contribution of pasture to poultry diets is highly variable
Pastured chickens will obtain a certain amount
of nutrients from the pasture, as well as insects
and other small invertebrates, and from small
seeds, fruits and berries. Although there is little
consensus about exactly how important each
of these sources of nutrition is, scientists agree
that the potential contribution of pasture (grass,
insects and worms) is highly variable and generally
very small. From a welfare and productivity
perspective, it is therefore vital for pastured
poultry farmers to supply a well-balanced ration
as the primary source of nutrition for their birds.
Nutritional benefits of pasture
Pasture consumption is influenced by a number
of factors, including the amount of time spent
outdoors, foraging behavior, plant species, stage
of growth, palatability and nutritional content of
the plants, and the nutritional needs of the birds.
Breed may also be important, as research shows
that slow-growing breeds adapted to outdoor
conditions will generally utilize forage more
The nutritional quality of pasture is related
at least in part to the plant species composition.
Pastures used by many free-range poultry flocks
will have been established for use by cattle or
sheep and may therefore contain species that
are not ideal for poultry production. If poultry
consume largely grass, the nutritional value
derived is likely to be relatively poor. While it
would provide some energy and fiber, the protein
contribution would be low at less than 5% of the
total requirement. However, birds that are allowed
to freely range will also consume a higher
proportion of insects and seeds than those
that have limited access to forage or a small
ranging area. Research shows that pasture intake
promotes growth by improving the consumption
of the grain-based feed, even though the intake of
forage dry matter may be low.
Providing chickens with additional forages to
supplement their diet (and enhance the range)
can have positive welfare impacts. Feeding pea
and maize silages or loose vegetables, for example,
significantly reduced mortality, feather pecking
(including severe pecking) and improved plumage
quality of layers. Providing straw as forage and
feed in mash form has also been shown to
reduce feather pecking.
Many nutritional deficiencies in poultry show
similar symptoms, such as reduced growth, poor
feathering and weakness, so it can be difficult to
determine the precise deficiency. Diet analysis,
examination of the management system and
necroscopy may be necessary for accurate
diagnosis. Some nutritional deficiencies are
temporary and reversible upon diet correction.
Article adapted from Farm Health Online.
For more information about practical,
science-based advice on highwelfare
essential fatty acids
selenium; iron; zinc;
A, D, E, K and B12;
folic acid; thiamin,
Tim Holmes is
Director of Compliance
with A Greener World
Following the COVID-19 outbreak, AGW
rapidly suspended all travel and on-site facility
audits. In order to ensure the continuation of the
certification process and maintain integrity of
all AGW programs and certified businesses, we
have introduced new temporary protocols and
procedures for remote or ‘desktop’ auditing.
Desktop audits allow us to audit facilities
without physically visiting a farm or business.
They encompass all areas of a standard audit,
including an examination of management plans,
records (including input and output records to
assess input-output balance) and an assessment
of any other relevant information pertinent to
meeting the objective of the audit. The ‘physical’
on-site visit is replaced with an interview with
the facility contact over the phone or by video
As your certification renewal date approaches
(and once you have paid your fee), an auditor will
contact you to arrange and schedule your desktop
audit. We can do it by phone or (preferably) video
conferencing such as Skype, WhatsApp or Face
Time. Video conferencing software often allows
screen sharing, which can be a useful option to
Once agreed, we’ll send you an email with full
instructions, a Self-Assessment Form and a copy
of your previous audit and compliance report
(if applicable). It is important to go through this
carefully. You’ll need to note any changes to your
business on the Self-Assessment Form. We’ll
also ask for copies of management plans and
farm management records, as well as any specific
information the auditor wishes to see. This might
include photos of livestock, housing, feed labels,
ingredients and other relevant documentation
or evidence. Keep copies of all this information
as you’ll need it during the audit to answer any
You will need to complete the Self-Assessment
Form and send it back to the auditor promptly,
along with all requested plans, records and other
information. This enables the auditor to prepare
for the audit day. Please return the assessment
form promptly to avoid unnecessary delays.
On the day
On the day of the audit the auditor will contact
you at the arranged time and explain the plan
for the desktop audit. It is important to choose
a quiet location where you will not be interrupted
and where conversations cannot be overheard to
ensure confidentiality. If you intend to use video
software please choose a neutral background wall
and remove any visible personal information.
The auditor will start by going through the
relevant compliance report questions, referring to
the reference material you have provided, so please
make sure you have the information available.
If for any reason we are unable to complete
the audit in one sitting, your auditor will schedule
a second appointment.
We’ll do our best to make sure the desktop
audit is as painless as possible and appreciate your
cooperation at this difficult time. Please allow up
to five weeks to receive your completed audit and
New facilities or species
New facilities or existing facilities with a new
species will require an on-site visit to certify. We
are currently evaluating travel restriction and the
viral status of different areas. Once it is deemed
safe to travel we will restart on-site audits and
new facilities and facilities adding species will
receive priority status.
If you have any question about desktop
auditing, please get in touch. We would be
happy to discuss the process with you.
22 • SUSTAINABLE FARMING • SUMMER 2020
SUMMER 2020 • SUSTAINABLE FARMING • 23
A GREENER WORLD
to help ...
Your regional point of contact
From Alaska to Wyoming, Alberta to Saskatchewan, our outreach team
offers a one-stop shop for farmers, ranchers and food businesses!
Promoting A Greener World
AGW is proud to offer
to help raise awareness
of your certification and
the wider benefits of
your farming practices.
Every purchase also
supports our work to
educate and inform
keep your certifications
For more promotional
place an order (with
For Canada, please
call +1 541-526-1119
AGW APRON $25
• Perfect for farmers’
markets or the kitchen
• 8 oz organic cotton/
• Black fabric with white
imprint A Greener
• Adjustable neckline,
two front pockets,
brass rivets, cotton
NEW SHELF TALKER
• Sold in packs of five
• Printed on premium
silk stock with
• 4¼" x 2¾"
• EZ-peal adhesive for
• Made in the USA
Welfare Approved by
AGW producers only
NEW CERTIFIED NON-
GMO BY AGW STICKER
• Full-color 1" x 1"
• Long-life adhesive
• 1,000 stickers per roll
by AGW producers only
ECO LUNCH COOLER
• Stylish, insulated
four-can lunch cooler
made from recycled,
• Fold-over flap with
• Graphite color with
black text/AGW logo
• 7 ¼" long x 10½" high
x 5 ¼" wide
PAPER VIEW TO BE
PAY PER VIEW
Sustainable Farming will be moving
to subscription-only in paper format.
To ensure everyone can continue enjoying
the magazine while being smart with
our resources, we're launching a new
subscription option in 2021.
AGW-certified farmers and ranchers will
still receive a complementary paper copy
as a benefit of certification. All other
subscriptions will transition to our free
digital format. If you (like many) would
prefer a paper copy, you can subscribe
for $36/year. Thank you for making this
valuable magazine possible.
BY AGW STICKER
• 1" x 1" high-quality
• Long-life adhesive
• 1,000 stickers per roll
Welfare Approved by
AGW producers only
BY AGW STICKER
• 1" x 1" high-quality
• Long-life adhesive
• 1,000 stickers per roll
Certified Grassfed by
AGW producers only
ANIMAL BY AGW
• French version
• 1" x 1" high-quality
• Long-life adhesive
• 1,000 stickers per roll
Welfare Approved by
AGW producers only
• Explains the benefits
• Ideal for farmers’
markets, farm stores
and other events
• 50 brochures per pack
Welfare Approved by
AGW producers only
VINYL BANNER $15
• Ideal for farmers’
• 18" x 24" with corner
• Full color imprint
18 oz vinyl
Welfare Approved by
AGW producers only
24 • SUSTAINABLE FARMING • SUMMER 2020 SUMMER 2020 • SUSTAINABLE FARMING • 25
Meet the farmer
Margot Heard with her daughter Elizabeth Heard Clarke and grandson Hugh McGregor Clarke
Margot Heard raises Certified Animal Welfare
Approved by AGW cattle at Lazy A Ranch in
Austin County, Texas. She manages British White
and Akaushi cattle on two properties totalling
approximately 500 acres, selling high-quality
grassfed beef through an online store. Educational
activities sit at the very heart of the ranch.
How did you get into farming?
My father was a farmer and designed the first
feedlot in Texas in the 1950s. As a child my favorite
place was the ranch. After living and working in
Houston for many years, my husband and I wanted
a place in the country for our family. We eventually
bought the Lazy A Ranch in 2008 and started with
the 22 Santa Gertrudis cows on the ranch and their
Star Five calves. I knew grassfed beef was better for
health and began to research it. I found information
about Certified Animal Welfare Approved on the
internet and knew it was the right fit.
Describe a typical day
I get up early and read my emails, check my
investment sites and maybe watch business news.
After breakfast I check the activities of the day and
our chickens, cattle and livestock guardian dogs.
We have a ranch manager who manages the cattle.
If we need to work cattle we do that in the morning.
During the day I get calls from meat customers
or Saint Nicholas School in Houston, where I am
headmistress and co-founder. After lunch I catch
up on news and work on paperwork. In the evening
we have a final check on the cattle and do more
chores. After that we sit by the fire or sit outside
by the pool to talk, depending on the season.
Then we have supper, relax or take care of any
Who are your customers?
People who are looking to buy high-quality,
high-welfare sustainable meat on the internet.
Sustainable farming principles:
why do they matter?
They provide transparency in food production and
access to buyers. The land must be managed in a
holistic manner to restore and maintain it. Practices
should be profitable, environmentally sound and
provide service to communities.
What’s the benefit of being certified by AGW?
It provides verification of what we claim. Anyone
can use the terms ‘grassfed’ or ‘natural’ and not
What are your plans for the future?
We want to add leased or purchased acreage
to increase our meat business volume. We’ve
struggled to find dependable markets—except
our website sales. This year we began working
with Barn2Door which is designed to help
farmers sell online.
What keeps you awake at night?
Ideas I am working on. Keeping up with the
paperwork for all my projects can be frustrating!
If I were President I would ...
Break the meat packer monopoly and encourage
diversity along the supply chain for meat. We do
not have a fair market for the producer.
AT A GLANCE
Farm: Lazy A Ranch
Size: 500 acres
Soil type: Mostly
dark clay soil with
some sandy soil
Altitude: 100 ft
300 head of British
White and Akaushi
cattle, selling AGWcertified
COURTSEY LAZY A RANCG (x2)
The International Monthly Publication for a Healthy Planet and People
through Profitable Grass-Based Livestock Production
FOCUSED on the art and science of making a PROFIT from grassland agriculture.
Get Your FREE Sample Issue Today!
P.O. Box 2300 Ridgeland, MS 39158-2300
26 • SUSTAINABLE FARMING • SUMMER 2020
SUMMER 2020 • SUSTAINABLE FARMING • 27
PO Box 115, Terrebonne OR 97760
PERMIT NO. 12
“Customers today ask more questions about what’s in their food and how it was produced. Our Certified
“Animal Welfare Approved by AGW certification has helped get more customers, without a doubt!”
“NELSON AND MARY JAMES, Dogwood Farm, North Carolina
COVER PHOTO: BISERKA STOJANOVIC
PRACTICAL, DOWN-TO-EARTH, RESPECTED
A GREENER WORLD
FARMING IS OUR BUSINESS
A Greener World | PO Box 115 | Terrebonne OR 97760 | 800-373-8806 | email@example.com
@AGreenerWorld | @AGreenerWorld | @AGreenerWorldOrg